Having a backyard swimming pool can be a lot of fun… but with great fun comes great responsibility (not a direct Spiderman quote).
In addition to keeping your pool clean, your water chemically balanced, and your pool equipment functional, maintaining a safe environment for swimmers is an important priority for all pool owners.
You may already be doing all the right things to ensure that your pool is a safe place for kids and adults alike but if you happen to need a refresher, you’ve come to the right place.
Pool Safety: Major Concerns
Pool safety is a broad term that can be applied to all aspects of your pool area. There are, however, some key points to keep in mind such as drowning prevention, childproofing the pool area, and water clarity.
As a conscientious pool owner, you are probably aware of most of these concerns and how to avoid the most common pool accidents. When it comes to the safety of your family and friends, however, there’s no such thing as too much information. Let’s dive in.
Unsurprisingly, the most tragic (and preventable) danger posed by swimming pools is unintentional drowning. The statistics are staggering and serve as a poignant reminder of the importance of pool safety.
The leading cause of death in American children between the ages of 1 and 4 (and the third leading cause of unintentional death among US children 5 to 19) is drowning. In 2017, drowning claimed the lives of almost 1000 US children.
In 2018, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and the USA Swimming Foundation reported that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, at least 148 children under 15 years old fatally drowned in swimming pools or spas.
As you can see, the possibility of pool injuries and fatalities is a very real concern. Even swimmers that are rescued from drowning still run the risk of brain injury due to lack of oxygen. It doesn’t take long for these accidents to happen or for people to get hurt. Having a pool safety strategy and plan of action is the best way to avoid tragedy.
Tripping or Falling around the Pool
Okay, drowning is the extreme worst-case scenario but there are plenty of other small accidents that can happen around a pool too. Maybe not life-or-death but certainly worth keeping in mind.
A pool area can be a wet and slippery place. To avoid broken bones or other injuries from slipping and falling, practice some simple safety precautions like:
- No running near the pool
- No glass around (or in) the pool
- No alcohol while swimming
Water Quality & Cleanliness
A clear pool is a safe pool. That’s why when your water gets cloudy or you start to notice some algae growth on the sides of the pool, it’s time to take action. If improperly cared for, pool water can be a haven for waterborne bacteria, parasites, and other gross stuff that you really don’t want to swim with.
Dirty, murky, or unbalanced water can quickly become a hangout for mosquitoes and other nasties too. Bugs, bacteria, and algae — oh my! All of these things can make you and your family very sick.
The dangers of cloudy water often go overlooked. For example, if someone loses conscious in the water, they may be hidden in the murk without anyone being the wiser. If you can’t see to the bottom of the pool, it’s time to take action!
Pool Safety: Accident Prevention
My goodness, that was a lot of depressing stuff! But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re just hitting the worst-case scenarios to segue into the most important part of pool safety: accident prevention.
Unsurprisingly, the most important thing you can do to prevent accidents and injuries in-and-around your pool is to just be around. Supervising the swimmers in your pool and keeping an eye out for possible dangers will pay off big time in the long run.
If you’re entertaining guests, you can recruit help by asking some other adults to pay attention to all of the kids in the pool so you don’t have to try to watch multiple children at once. Vigilance around the pool, however, is not limited to watching kids. If you’re having a party, it’s even a good idea to be on the lookout for adults who may have had a bit too much to drink.
Remaining alert at all times while swimmers are in your pool is a great way to avoid any accidents or unfortunate mishaps.
It will probably come as no surprise to you that learning how to swim is a key factor in pool safety. Children should learn to swim as soon as possible. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends children take swimming lessons as early as age 1.
The sooner a kid learns to swim and can manage themselves in the water, the better. It is important to keep in mind, however, that children develop at different rates so be patient with them and support their swimming education as soon as they’re ready.
Before you start your children in swimming lessons, a few factors to consider include:
- How often your kids are exposed to water or swimming situations
- Any possible physical limitations they may have
- Your child’s age and emotional maturity
While a child is learning to swim (or before they begin), it’s a good idea to invest in arm floaties or inflatable pool toys. These can be of great benefit in case of fatigue and are just an added layer of protection to a child who is still getting used to the water.
Swim programs are very beneficial and can teach young (and older) children important water survival skills. Keep in mind, however, swimming lessons are not a substitute for proper supervision and do not guarantee that a child won’t drown. This is just one of the many tools in your arsenal for keeping your friends and family safe while enjoying the pool.
While you may or may not have a pool that is suitable for diving, safe diving practices are a good thing to keep in mind around the pool. Most of our suggestions are common sense, but a refresher never hurts.
- Never dive into above-ground pools. Ever. They’re just too shallow.
- Never dive into the shallow end of a pool.
- Avoid diving into inner tubes or other pool toys.
- Never dive when you’re under the influence.
Before diving, always check how deep the water is, entering the water feet-first when you go in for the first time. It’s not always easy to judge the depth of a swimming pool, so diving in headfirst is a great way to find out the hard way.
Diving can cause head injuries, permanent brain damage, and serious spinal cord injuries if done improperly. Diving is a lot of fun if you know what you’re doing and have a deep enough pool. Taking lessons is the best way to learn to dive safely!
Basic Life Support
Learning CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and First Aid are two of the smartest things you can do as a pool owner, parent, and frankly, a human being. It’s unthinkable that something so scary could happen in your pool, but if it does, being prepared can truly save someone’s life.
The American Red Cross offers CPR courses regularly and you can even take them online (not for certification, just the skills), which is very handy the age of overfull schedules. Learning basic life support before an emergency occurs is one of the best accident prevention measures you can take.
Clear Pool Rules
Keeping your pool water clean and clear should be a no-brainer for seasoned and responsible pool owners. A murky pool with bacteria-laden water is a recipe for waterborne illness, accidents, and disease.
Proper use of pool chemicals, like chlorine, is an easy fix for a less-than-sparkling pool. Chlorine, in the correct amounts and distribution, will kill bacteria and parasites that may be lurking there, all while being harmless to the people swimming.
Pool Chemical Safety
Pool chemicals are extremely necessary to keep your pool healthy and clean but mishandling them or storing them improperly can lead to dangers like illness, irritation, hazmat spills, or possibly even fires.
Always keep chemicals out of reach of children (bonus points if you are able to lock them up). Make sure to store pool chemicals in their own area and completely separate from other household cleaning agents. Accidentally mixing chemicals can cause crazy chemical reactions or even unintentional explosions.
Keep your storage area clean, everything labeled correctly, and clean up spills as soon as they happen. For even more peace of mind, you can request material safety data sheets (MSDS) from your local pool store or chemical manufacturer that give specific instructions for individual use, handling, and storage requirements for each agent.
Even the most vigilant adult can’t be watching 24-hours a day. If you have small children and a pool in your backyard, it may be worth considering some pool safety equipment that could save your children’s’ lives.
Kids are wily. They can slip in and out of anywhere like ninjas. To ensure that they don’t sneak out a window or through an unlocked door when unsupervised, having a secure fence around your pool is a smart idea.
Having one of these babies is a must if you have young children in the house. In addition to preventing children from entering the pool on their own, you may also save the life of a neighbor or pet who may not know how to swim.
Pool fences should be at least 4 feet high (1.2 meters) and be as climb-resistant as possible. Make sure to keep all ladders and lawn furniture away from the fence to ensure that no one is able to climb it. Additionally, the most important part of a pool fence is a secure and self-latching gate that only opens away from the pool
Keeping your pool covered is a great way to avoid accidents. If you own a spa or hot tub, a rigid/folding cover is the best choice to prevent access completely. You can even find pool covers with locking straps to ensure that the cover isn’t going to move.
If you have a pool, you can find some excellent automatic and manual covers too. The covers that anchor into the pool deck are a great option. Automatically retracting covers are the simplest to use (and most convenient) but tend to be more expensive.
Since you don’t have eyes in the back of your head, there are some other great safety options out there to ensure that young children don’t make it out to the pool unnoticed.
We suggest adding a sliding door lock, lever lock, or doorknob cover.
These are cheap and easy to install. No matter what kind of backdoor you have, you’re sure to be able to find a variety of childproof door fittings to make sure that little ones can’t swim unsupervised.
Gate or Door Alarms
These will make a beep, ding, or some other warning sound when a gate or door is opened. You can install them on any door to alert you to the comings and goings of those in your home.
What they won’t think of next! For extra security, you can even get a pool alarm that sounds when someone is in the water. It’s a motion detector that picks up any activity in the water (when there shouldn’t be).
This is definitely an extra precaution you should consider for when an active child has broken through the other layers of security.
Phew! That was a lot of information. You are now the most informed pool owner in town! There’s no price you can put on the safety of your family or your own peace of mind and arming yourself with actionable information is the best first step to get you there.
We hope you take these tips and suggestions to heart to implement a safe and fun pool environment for your family and friends. We know they’ll thank you for it.